A bit of history: the post I made to mark ten years on usenet
From: Penny Gaines <pe…@gaines.plus.com>
Subject: Ten years on usenet
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Date: Sat, 05 Jul 2003 17:54:37 +0000
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It is ten years ago today since I posted my first usenet message.
I’ve been here since the days when usenet was almost exclusively for
universities and high-tech firms, when my company was unusual for using
email, and even techies didn’t know what the www in certain URLs stood
for. Back then the accepted wisdom was no-one could archive every news
posting, but even then the pre-curser to the pre-curser of google was
saving them. I can’t tell you what the web was like, because it was
still being invented.
I’d found newsgroups, not by using a newsreader, but by looking at
different files on the computer system of my new job, and wondering just
what were these files with names like /var/spool/news/misc/kids/1546.
(Worth noting that the employees of this company were expected to do
this sort of thing: anyone who would only use the proper software
to look at a file would not have a job there.)
My first post was about vi, the unix text editor, which I still use by
I didn’t post to misc.kids until December that year, when I was pregnant.
Back then, mk was the only group for pregnancy, breastfeeding and
The posters on mk really influenced my parenting. For instance, I knew
“breast was best” and I like the idea of exclusive breastfeeding, but
I thought it wasn’t something ordinary mothers like me could do. But
there were ordinary women in mk who had done it, so I learnt I might
be able to. And I did. The biggest thing I learnt was that every child
is different, and I was given the confidence to trust myself, not the
experts who had written books.I hope I’ve been able to help other, newer
parents just like I was helped myself.
I’ve got the t-shirt (my yougest still just fits into her “I’m a misc.kid”
one), and a photoalbum, even a fridge magnet.
The great thing about mk is it survives and adapts. It is a different
newsgroup now to what it was them, but thriving in a different way.
It has gone downhill at least twice, sufficiently badly for me to either
unsubscribe, or nearly unsubscribe. And both times it has re-vitalised
itself. I love it for being so open: it wants new people to come along
and wants to adapt to them. I hope it continues to adapt, continues to be
At one particularly low spot for mk, I got involved in the creation team
for mkm – a group that has developed into yet another different newsgroup.
I’m very proud of what I helped to create (although it is the moderators
who are doing the hard part now: merely creating it was relatively easy.)
So, I suppose I’m an old-timer now (but to me old-timers were around
before the “great renaming”, not before “the endless September”). I just
hope I don’t start saying “in my day, things were better”, I hope I
continue to see that people who have only just started on the internet
may have good ideas and ways of doing things that are better then the
And I hope I’m still on usenet to post my twentieth anniversary message.
UK mum to three
PS I wanted to crosspost to mkm, but my system is playing up, so I’ve
had to send two copies.